It is amazing how fast the robotics technology is entering into the fabrics of nearly all industries. Just as we are waiting to embrace fully automated doctors into the surgical rooms, nanorobots have proved that they can actually go into a living being, tackle a medical condition and came out without harming other living cells.
Hey! You are not high -you heard that right. Scientists have managed to create real DNA-splicing nanorobots. And you know what, the technology is working superb -than it was originally expected.
The Team Behind the Nanorobots
The project was a collaboration between scientists from Arizona State University and those from the National Center for Nanoscience –an academy in China that merges science with AI technology.
The team was led by Hao Yan, and according to a press release, they have managed to successfully program nanorobots that practically shrink tumors. That in itself clearly proves that we can actually alter how cancer cells behave.
Ideally, tumors grow when their blood supply is not interfered with –that’s where the nanorobots come in, to cut off blood supply so that the cancerous tumor starves and eventually dies. To put it in a language that a layman will understand –there is a great hope for cancer patients!
Mr. Yan and his team started working on this project some five years ago. What is amazing is that they didn’t know that it would end up like this, as the idea was somewhat unrealistic. It was a trial on whether it is possible to use DNA-based nanocarriers to block blood supply to tumors.
Along the way, Yan who is a specialist in DNA origami was able to bring in his specific set of skills from his field of specialization and so they managed to build what they call a fully programmable robotic system. Well, the most amazing part of the project was not really creating the system, “but the fact that the system is able to execute its missions without human necessary –autonomously.”
An Overview of the Research, Seek and Destroy
To be on-point, Nanomedicine is a branch of medicine that seeks to diagnose and treat difficult diseases like cancer and the rest, through minuscule and molecule-sized nanoparticles. This falls under nanotechnology –but in this case, the tech seeks to open up new avenues on how doctors can administer complicated treatments like treating various cancers etc.
For the longest time, the challenge was how exactly to design, create and smartly control nanorobots that could recognize and destroy cancerous tumors –without causing harm to other normal cells. And you know what, the researchers overcame the hurdle by using a seemingly simple tactic –seek and starve the tumor.
Baoguan Ding, a professor in the NCNST team said, “These nanorobots can be designed to deliver molecular payloads that cause on-site blockage of blood supply to tumors. As a result, the tissues making the tumor would eventually die.
How Do These Nanorobots Look Like?
Well, let’s first delve into the design.” Each agent or nanorobot to be precise is 90 x 60 nanometers in size and is created from a flat rectangular DNA origami pane. That’s the mechanical part.
The biological part, a fundamental blood-clotting enzyme by the name thrombin is then attached to it. Ideally, the purpose of thrombin is to clog tumor blood flow -by causing the blood inside the vessels to clot.
The Real Study
Now, the scientist used a well-known mouse tumor model and injected cancer cells into it with the purpose of inducing aggressive tumor growth. After confirming that the tumor is growing at a specific rate, the fully designed nanorobots were deployed to combat the situation.
The most important part of the whole research is that the team was able to prove that these nanorobots are actually accurate to identify the cancerous tissues. And more so, they were safe and very effective in shrinking tumors –both on mice and large animals.
Regarding as to which type of cancers these nanorobots can have an effect on, the technology was particularly successful against lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Hey, also worth mentioning is that after the treatment procedure, these nanorobots can successfully be removed from the body system –as they should. In summary, robots are taking us into the future faster than it was expected.